With the release of the Downton Abbey Movie in the Autumn, we’re seeing a renewed interest in all things Downton – so what better way to start the festive season than with a nostalgic look back at some of the fantastic locations which helped to make this programme so loved around the world. Any of these sites can easily fit in to one of our self-drive trips!
Highclere Castle, Berkshire
The obvious starting point is Downton Abbey itself, Highclere Castle. This impressive Victorian castle - with over 1,000 acres of surrounding parkland - sits in the heart of Berkshire, and is the real life home to the Earl and Countess of Carnarvon, whose family have lived here since 1679.
As well as seeing plenty of easily recognisable interior shots (most of the ‘upstairs’ scenes where filmed here) and taking in the classic exterior view, you can also view artefacts and treasures of the Carnarvon family, including some particularly interesting ancient Egyptian relics.
Highclere Castle is open for 60 to 70 days each year: two weeks over Easter; each of the May Bank holidays; two months (Sunday to Thursday) over the summer months, and a few days in early December. Advance booking is recommended.
The village in the programme is actually set in the village of Bampton, in the quintessentially English countryside of the Cotswolds (you may be forgiven for thinking this village would be in Yorkshire as that is where the Downton estate is supposed to be!) and is home to a number of recognisable locations that were used for filming.
Filming locations you’ll find in Bampton include: the post office; Churchgate House, which is used as Isobel Crawley’s home; Church View, which houses the fictional pubs The Grantham Arms and The Dog & Duck, and also St. Mary’s church – one of the key locations for many of Downton’s most dramatic moments. You can also visit the Bampton Community Archive in the Old Grammar School, which serves as the Downton hospital in several episodes, where you can pick up a variety of Downton related information and souvenirs.
The village of Swinbrook, also in the beautiful Cotswolds countryside, became a filming location for Downton Abbey in Season 2, where The Swan Inn was the secret meeting location for Lady Sybil and Branson, her chauffeur, to plan their elopement.
Cogges Farm, Cotswolds
Also found in the Cotswolds, once a working farm and now a heritage centre, Cogges Manor Farm is better known as Yew Tree Farm in Downton Abbey. The farm has appeared in several series, first under the tenancy of Mr Drewe and later the new farm of Mr Mason.
Cogges Manor Farm is a beautifully preserved collection of Cotswold stone farm buildings set in its own grounds. The site has been farmed since before the Domesday Book and parts of the manor house date back to the Thirteenth Century. Now you can enjoy the historic farmyard, feed the animals, explore the manor house and grounds, as well as stop for some refreshments at the excellent Cogges café!
With its cobbled streets and cosy stone cottages, the National Trust village of Lacock has been a favourite filming location for decades, not least for Downton Abbey! It’s here that the exterior of Carson’s cottage was filmed, and it forms a perfect backdrop to the royal parade in the Downton Abbey movie.
While there, make sure you don’t miss out on the 13th century Lacock Abbey, a quirky country house of various architectural styles, built upon the foundations of a former nunnery. The entrance ticket to the Abbey also includes the Fox Talbot Museum of Photography.
Alnwick Castle, Northumberland
Northumberland’s Alnwick Castle starred as the magnificent Brancaster Castle in two Christmas specials of Downton Abbey. The first episode featuring the castle saw the Crawley family attend Lord Sinderby’s shooting party. The State Rooms inside the castle provided a spectacular backdrop for a number of scenes, and the episode highlighted the grounds of the castle and the nearby Hulne Abbey, nestled in the Northumberland countryside.
In 2015, the State Rooms once again were used, this time in the final-ever episode of Downton Abbey, setting the scene for an emotional finale. Additional filming also took place on the ramparts of the castle, in Bow Alley and St. Michael’s Church Hall nearby, which you can also see on a visit to Alnwick.
As well as Downton, the castle is no stranger to hosting film crews - it most recently featured in Transformers: The Last Knight, it featured as Hogwarts in the first two Harry Potter films, and appeared in Elizabeth and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
Inveraray Castle, Scottish Highlands
Duneagle Castle was the location for Rose Aldridge and her parents, the MacClares, to escape for the weekend in season 3 in the episode ‘A Journey to the Highlands’. The gothic Inveraray Castle in the Scottish Highlands stood in as Duneagle Castle, as well providing the backdrop to the exterior fishing and stalking scenes.
The Scottish scenes opened with the Grantham party arriving at the castle, to be welcomed on the original front steps of the castle, before going into the Armoury Hall. The West Highland’s spectacular hills, lochs and glens are all on show throughout the episode.
As the real-life home to the Duke of Argyll, the castle boasts beautiful manicured gardens and opulently decorated rooms that hold everything from ceramics and paintings to antiquities. The castle has a really imposing location on the banks of Loch Fyne, and about 40 miles from Oban.
If you want help planning a self-drive trip around Britain (that could take in some of these spots!), please do not hesitate to get in touch.